Developing a Conservation Management plan for Tripoli Fair

Project name :

Conservation Management Plan for Tripoli Fair

Project duration :


Location :

Tripoli, Lebanon

Funded by the Getty Foundation through its Keeping It Modern initiative, the project aims at developing a Conservation Management Plan (CMP) for the Rachid Karami International Fair complex in order to guarantee the preservation of its cultural, architectural and historical value in any future development process.

Project overview

The Rachid Karami International Fair (RKIF) was designed by renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer, in 1962, as a permanent fairground and exhibition center in Tripoli. However, the outbreak of the civil war and its aftermath hindered the fairground’s completion and its later development. Although it remains unfinished, the RKIF is considered one of the most iconic architectural projects of the modern period in Lebanon. It incorporates over 15 structures, including exhibition spaces, pavilions, theaters, museums, and residences. The functional variation of the structures is matched by a distinction in their architectural forms: while they belong to a coherent whole, each structure has a unique architectural identity. The RKIF was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List in 2018.

The Fairground’s structures are vulnerable to decay, and repairs are currently needed to ensure the survival of this modern legacy. However, prior to undertaking physical repairs, restoration, or development initiatives, a consensus on a general conservation policy is essential. Similar policies are usually compiled within a planning document known as a Conservation Management Plan (CMP). Such a plan acts as a guiding tool for property owners and managers to have informed decisions related to the future conservation and development of the Fairground.

With the support of the Getty Foundation’s “Keeping It Modern” initiative (2018), UNESCO Beirut Office is collaborating with a team of local and international experts to conduct the research and studies necessary for developing a CMP for the Fairground. This document will study the RKIF’s context and highlight its cultural significance and the diverse values it mediates. It will also discuss the vulnerabilities of its physical fabric, and outline appropriate conservation policies to preserve what is significant about the RKIF in future restoration or reuse plans.

Before formulating a future vision, it is necessary to study the historical background of the Fairground, its current general condition, and the structure of its governance. The development of the RKIF_CMP will be based on data collected through archival research and oral histories, field evaluation of the RKIF's material fabric, the interests of local stakeholders, and Tripoli’s needs as an urban entity. This data will enable the development of guiding principles and conservation policies which fit the local context and encourage the development of Niemeyer’s ‘Rachid Karami International Fair’ without jeopardizing either its integrity or authenticity.

The RKIF_CMP project adopts a participatory approach that invites the Fair’s administration and other major stakeholders to be involved in the preservation of the valuable structures and landscape Niemeyer designed.


The RKIF_CMP project aims to prepare the appropriate Conservation Management Plan for the site.  The set Plan ensures that no blunders are made in the future with regard to structural repairs and development, and that any intervention carried out will accord with the framework of international conservation policies adopted by UNESCO, while also responding to local needs.

The CMP’s aims are:

  1. Understanding the diverse values of the Fairground.
  2. Addressing current technical issues, impacts, vulnerabilities, constraints and opportunities.
  3. Developing guiding policies for preserving what is significant about the Fairground.
  4. Identifying possible adaptive reuse strategies towards the compatible development of the Fairground.

Largely comprised of research-based study, the first phase of this project involves gathering information through archival research, oral histories and field investigation. This field research closely assesses the current condition of fabric, construction techniques and materials used. The research further highlights the Fair's character-defining qualities, the structure of its management (both legal and administrative), as well as the potential stakeholders involved.

The analysis of collected data will deepen the understanding of the RKIF’s context and support an elaboration on the myriad values that need to be protected or preserved, including aesthetic, architectural, technical, social, urban, economic and cultural values. Ultimately, the UNESCO team will draft the conservation policies that best protect the authenticity and character of the site and respond to the local context.

The CMP document will have an appreciably positive impact, by:

  • Assisting the decision makers to take informed decisions towards better management of imminent change.
  • Contributing to the proper restoration and development of the fair
  • Contributing to the efforts of the State Party towards the inscription of the RKIF on the World Heritage List.

The RKIF_CMP project is a pilot project in Lebanon, through which UNESCO aims to set the standards and provide guidelines suitable for the local context, in order to encourage for similar practices to be adopted in the future, for all types of heritage buildings.

Areas of intervention

The Conservation Management Plan is a document that provides guidance for better conservation and management of the RKIF as a modern cultural heritage site.

The project encourages national stakeholders to consider how to link the RKIF’s function with the sustainable urban development goals of the City of Tripoli while safeguarding the Fair’s cultural significance.

Contributing to the attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in urban contexts, the CMP sets a course of action for future development policies and strategies of the city and the site itself. In particular, the project shall contribute to goal 11 of the SDG, specifically targeting 11.4: “Strengthening efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural heritage”.

The Team

UNESCO Project Lead

Joseph Kreidi

Project Supervisor sends e-mail)

Joseph Kreidi, a civil engineer and urban planner, joined UNESCO since 1993 as a Program Specialist for Culture. Joseph is managing UNESCO’s technical cooperation activities and projects in the field of culture, mainly concerning tangible and intangible cultural heritage, World Heritage sites, fighting illicit trafficking in cultural property, as well as the protection of cultural property in the event of armed conflict. 

 Joseph Kreidi

Maya Hmeidan

Technical Coordinator sends e-mail)

An Archaeologist and a Heritage Expert with 10 years of experience, Maya has worked extensively with the Ministry of Culture as a Heritage Consultant on several projects, and since 2016, she has been working with UNESCO’s Beirut Office as a technical coordinator for the UDAS project related to Baalbek and Tyre World Heritage sites.  

Maya Hmeidan

Fadia Jardak

Administrative Assistant sends e-mail)

Fadia is an Administrative Assistant with extensive experience as a financial administrator of cultural projects. She worked with the Ministry of Culture as a financial coordinator for the Archeomedsites project (2014-2015), a cultural heritage project funded by the European Union. Since 2016, Fadia has been the administrative assistant for the UNESCO Documentation and Advisory Services project with UNESCO Beirut.

Fadia Jardak

Research Team

Farès el-Dahdah

Architectural Historian sends e-mail)

Farès el-Dahdah is Professor of the Humanities and Director of the Humanities Research Center at Rice University. He has written and lectured extensively on Brazil’s Modern Architecture, in general, and on Oscar Niemeyer, in particular and serves on the board of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation in Rio de Janeiro.

Farès el-Dahdah

Maroun Kassab

Architect sends e-mail)

Maroun Kassab is a practicing architect, assistant professor and architectural researcher with a PhD in architecture on the theoretical framework of modernism in extra-western localities. He has several publications in the field of architectural theory and history. His research focuses on modernism and the phenomenology of architectural form.

Maroun Kassab

Mazen Haidar

Conservation Architect sends e-mail)

Mazen Haidar holds an MPhil in Architectural Conservation from the University of Rome “La Sapienza”. As a practicing architect, he led and participated in several conservation and adaptation projects of modern buildings in Lebanon. His ongoing doctoral research at Sorbonne-Paris I addresses the question of the reception and appropriation practices of modern architecture in Beirut.   

Mousbah Rajab

Urban Planner sends e-mail)

Mousbah Rajab is a professor in urban planning at the Lebanese University, specialized in strategic planning within heritage contexts. He has worked extensively on the urban context of the historic city of Tripoli and undertook preliminary research on this subject for Tripoli’s International Fair in 2005.

Technical Team

Kyle Normandin

Conservation Architect sends e-mail)

Kyle Normandin, PAIC, FAPT, is an architectural conservator with 30 years of experience. He is an Associate Principal with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates Inc., an international architectural, engineering, and materials science firm based in the USA. Kyle sits on the Bureau of ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on 20th Century Heritage and is on the Board of Directors of the Association for Preservation Technology International.

Pamela Jerome

Cultural Heritage Specialist sends e-mail)

Pamela Jerome, FAIA, LEED AP is a preservation architect with 39 years experience. She is President of Architectural Preservation Studio, DPC, a New York-based architecture and preservation firm. She sits on the international Board of ICOMOS and is an expert member of the ICOMOS International Scientific Committee on 20th Century Heritage. She has consulted on cultural properties in the US, Mediterranean, Black Sea, Middle East and Far East.

Pamela Jerome

Paul Gaudette

Conservation Engineer sends e-mail)

Paul Gaudette, FACI, FAPT, is a Principal with Wiss, Janney, Elstner Associates, Inc., an international architectural, engineering, and materials science firm based in the US.He has been with the firm for more than 36 years, specializing in investigation, repair, and preservation of archaic and modern concrete heritage structures in the US and Europe. He is a member of the International Scientific Committee on Twentieth Century Heritage.   

Paul Gaudette

Project Interns

Jessica Rai

October 2019 – July 2020 sends e-mail)

Jessica Rai holds a Bachelor of Architecture from Notre Dame University and a Master’s degree focusing on the Implications of Preservation from Cyprus International University. Her current research interests focus on theoretical experimentation and buildings as narratives, going beyond form into the socio-political view of architecture.

Naï Zakharia

January – June 2020 sends e-mail)

Naï Zakharia holds an MA in Material and Visual Culture from University College London, and is beginning a PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2020. Her interest is primarily in historical anthropology, with a focus on heritage objects and documentation. She has previously worked in the archives of the Royal Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland, and at UMAM Documentation and Research in Beirut.

Rawan Deeb

August – October 2019 sends e-mail)

Rawan is an Architecture graduate from Lebanese American University. She graduated with high Distinction, and received the President’s Award from her faculty. She has a particular passion for architectural conservation and restoration. She has worked on several university urban initiative projects in Tyre, Rashaya, and Tripoli; the RKIF is of particular interest to her and the subject of one of her projects.

Mariam Zgheib

July – September 2019 sends e-mail)

Mariam Zgheib has a Master’s degree in tourism with a focus on e-tourism and cultural heritage engineering from La Rochelle University in France. Mariam’s research focuses on social media and its role in cultural heritage conversation.

Nadim-Charbel Zeidan

May - July 2019 sends e-mail)

Nadim-Charbel Zeidan holds a diploma in Civil and Environmental Engineering from Université Saint-Joseph- École Supérieure d’Ingénieurs de Beyrouth (USJ-ESIB). His academic work concentrated on public works and transportation. His academic achievement is such, that his final year project was nominated as a top tier of his cohort. Nadim conducted a well-rounded internship at Dar Al Handasah, in infrastructure engineering.  

Activities and News

Historical overview

During the mid-20th century, a recently-independent Lebanon was gaining popularity as an international and regional destination and Beirut became known as “the center of the Middle-East”. The Presidency of Fouad Chehab (1958-1964) ushered in a new era of modernization and social liberalization in Lebanon, relying, unlike his predecessors, on a strong central state. Chehab’s main goal was to curb growing inequality between the wealthy merchant cosmopolis of Beirut and the poor underdeveloped rural areas. The concept of, what came to be known as, the Rachid Karami International Fair (RKIF) was tied to Chehab's embrace of social welfare, and intended to make Tripoli a cultural and economic locus outside of Beirut. It also evidenced a politics of optimism, which assumed a better future for Lebanon. Designed by renowned Brazilian modernist architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, the RKIF was loosely inspired by his earlier design for Brazil’s futuristic new capital, Brasilia. The fairground was built to house a planned permanent international fair, capable of accommodating up to 2 million visitors a year, including, among others, a grand exhibition hall, a national pavilion, and an outdoor concert stage. Construction began early 1964, and was executed by the local companies Abouhamad, ACE and Dar Al-Handasa.

However, the RKIF remained unfinished 10 years later. This was due to successive interruptions in its construction as funds needed to be secured to enable each new phase of work. Then, in the spring of 1975, when the fairground was on the verge of being finalized, violence erupted: the Civil War and, later, foreign military control, left the fairground incomplete and abandoned for years. At the turn of the 21st century, the RKIF’s cultural and historical significance finally gained worldwide recognition. In 2018, thanks to rousing local efforts to protect and revitalize the complex, the RKIF was added to UNESCO’s World Heritage tentative list. The development of a conservation plan has since been initiated. While the finalization of the Conservation Plan and the complex’s full inscription on the official World Heritage List are underway, the fairground needs immediate maintenance and some structural repairs to preserve its integrity. It is our hope that the Lebanese State will give due attention to this gem of modern heritage by securing the necessary funds to enable the preservation, and eventual rehabilitation, of the RKIF.

Check our Interactive Timeline Here



Towards the end of President Camille Chamoun’s term in office, the Exhibition Committee at the Ministry of Planning decides to hold an annual international fair in Beirut and launches a project for this purpose.


As a result of local efforts and a 1958 governmental decision to establish greater regional balance in development across the country, President Fouad Chehab signs the formal acceptance to proceed with "The Permanent International Fair" choosing Tripoli as the final location.


The President of the Council, Saeb Salam, allocates for the Fair an expropriated plot of 400,000 m2, in Tripoli. The newly established Executive Council of Grand Projects (Conseil Exécutif des Grands Projets - CEGP) assigns international experts to advise on the planning of this Fair.


Niemeyer arrives in Beirut on July 28th for the first site inspection and develops a schematic design proposal. On the 3rd of September, President Rachid Karami presents the scale model in a press conference. In one of his interviews, Niemeyer describes Tripoli’s Fair as “a museum of modernism” presenting a “new solution” that revolutionizes conventional conceptions of international fairs.


The laying of the foundational stone is celebrated in a ceremonial opening, on the 1st of October. The study and development of the Fair are commissioned to three local consulting firms: Abouhamad, ACE, and Dar Al-Handasah.


Early in the year, construction work for the Fair begins. The inauguration of the Fair is scheduled for three years from the construction’s starting date.


Oscar Niemeyer visits Lebanon again to follow up on site work and the construction process. However, because of delay in the work’s progress and lack of enabling funds, the Fair’s opening is rescheduled for 1969.


With rising concerns about further rescheduling on national and international levels, Uthman ad-Dana, Minister of Public Works, calls for investigation in the construction delay of ongoing public projects, including the Fair and the expansion of Beirut's Airport.


Oscar Niemeyer visits the construction site again. The Lebanese State agrees to increase the budget commission in order to expedite the completion of the Fair.


In May, Niemeyer addresses a letter to the CEGP, expressing his satisfaction for the executed work, and his concern for the slow pace of the construction process. Niemeyer calls for additional efforts to expedite the work, considering that Tripoli’s Fair is one of his most appreciated projects.


Critics express concerns about continuing delay in the Fair's construction. Protesters question the Fair’s design and the language of architectural modernism, in view of the fact that it is a publicly owned complex.


The outbreak of the Lebanese Civil War leads to the cessation of further site work. In the following year, the Arab Deterrent Force (ADF), and mainly the Syrian Armed Forces, take military control of the Fairground and its incomplete structures.


In July, the Chairman of the Fair's Administrative Council requests the complete evacuation of the Fairgrounds. In October, two international experts, Jemp Michels and Roger Weber visit the Fair, report on the work that remains to be done, and set a tentative completion date of 1982-1983.


All projects related to the Fair are once again halted, following the Israeli invasion of Lebanon. In the following year, the Fair’s Administrative Council expresses a desire to resign due to the difficult conditions created by the continued Syrian military occupation of the site.


The Syrian Army partially evacuate the Fairgrounds. Prime Minister Rafik Al Hariri launches a targeted rehabilitation plan, in an effort to actualize the Fair’s initially intended function.


The International Fair of Lebanon in Tripoli is officially renamed Rachid Karami International Fair (RKIF). Despite limited military presence, several international and regional exhibitions are staged at the RKIF between 1995 and 1998.


Following the complete military withdrawal from the site, several efforts to redevelop and revitalize the RKIF complex as an international fairground take place.


The Fair’s architectural identity, threatened by large-scale development proposals, arouses local and international media interest, bringing attention to the value of this modern project. Following a local campaign, the World Monument Fund, an organization dedicated to the protection of threatened cultural sites, listed the RKIF on its 2006 World Monuments Watch List of 100 Most Endangered Sites.


Niemeyer’s masterpiece in Tripoli is included onto UNESCO’s World Heritage Tentative List as a prime and representative exemplar of 20th century modern architecture in the Arab Middle-East. UNESCO’s Regional Office in Beirut, funded by the Getty Foundation, begins in 2019 the project to develop a conservation management plan for the RKIF.